When Lake Ontario Waterkeeper heard about the proposal for a new mega-quarry in Melancthon Township, just outside of Orangeville, we weren't sure if we had the numbers right. As proposed, the quarry would occupy 937.1 hectares of prime agricultural land and extract water below the water table at depths of 60 metres (200 feet). Picture a 20-storey hole in downtown Toronto stretching from the Don Valley Parkway to Dufferin Street spanning from the Gardiner Expressway to Dundas Street.
We know a little something about quarries. Since 2005, Waterkeeper has been an active intervenor in the hearing for the proposed Nelson Aggregate quarry in Burlington, Ontario. Through Nelson, as well as other quarry licencing processes, we have had a chance to study the impacts of aggregate extraction on the environment. These include impacts on underground water flows, aquatic life, ecology and threatened species.
In the case of the Nelson quarry expansion, we see many impacts to water:
Wetlands, headwaters, and creeks are drained, buried, or cut-off from their flow source;
Habitats are destroyed or encroached upon by development; and
Fish populations cannot reproduce as their breeding grounds are eliminated or blocked.
The Melancthon quarry is likely to have many of the same kinds of impacts. Like Burlington, Melancthon is part of the Amabel Formation, a layer of dolostone that constitutes a valuable aquifer. The bedrock includes karst features, which are formed when groundwater moves through limestone or dolostone bedrock, slowly dissolving the rock and increasing its permeability.
Waterkeeper submitted our formal objection regarding the Melancthon quarry under the Aggregate Resources Act to the Ministry of Natural Resources and the proponent (Highland Companies) on April 19th, 2011. This deadline for objections under the Aggregate Resources Act has passed. Though you can no longer formally object, the Ministry of Natural Resources extended the Environmental Registry comment period 76 days to July 11, 2011 where you can still make a submission. Visit the registry for more information about the project and how to submit your own comments.